Red Bastard (5 stars)

This article is from 2013

Red Bastard

A masterclass in physical comedy

Red Bastard makes an explicit contract with his audience: he insists that the quality of the show depends not on his performance, but on their engagement. After an introduction that showcases his mime skills and sets the tone – aggressive audience interaction – Red Bastard sets about challenging the audience, poking at their indolence and charging them with fulfilling their desires.

His aggression is extreme, even bullying – there are plenty of walk-outs, and Red Bastard throws a few people out himself when he feels they are being dishonest or threatening his control. There are attacks on lack of ambition, a critique of the Fringe, parodies of the student-pupil relationship, and a series of terrifying meditations on individual failure, all peppered with his unique mix of charm and cruelty. His techniques are precise, his aims as clear as his absolute control over his bulging body and curvaceous costume.

When Red Bastard mocks the usual conventions of theatre – pretending to be someone else and that the audience is not there – he is making a claim for the honesty and integrity of his own show. In it, art becomes not a reflection of reality, or a thing to be observed, but a confrontation with the uncomfortable and the unwanted.

The show’s final moments explain his purpose. The ferocity is a necessary part of his message: in advocating a life without fear, he cannot be less than fearless himself, and must embody the terror that prevents a life being lived to its full. Like a vicious preacher, Red Bastard is convinced of his message and willing to embody the difficult and frightful, the better to banish its power. He’s certainly not for the timid, and sees no complications in the virtue on acting on desire. But his power to inspire and enthuse is undeniable.

Assembly George Square, 623 3030, until 26 Aug, 4.40pm (not 14) £11–£13 (£10–£12).

Red Bastard

Subversive clown theatre from the American performer Eric Davis.